I’ve spent most of my life without a good mentor, for various reasons. I found out early on that if you want to grow and learn you need to push yourself. You can be your own mentor, and in some ways, even if you’ve got someone pushing you, it’s a good idea to take that high-level control yourself.
I’ve been a big fan of what many people call “lifelong learning”. It’s a philosophy of always pushing yourself to learn new things and expand your skill-set. I think the first step to mentoring yourself is making a commitment to lifelong learning. This means taking the initiative to read books on topics that interest you, take classes, ask questions and take an active stake in your personal and professional growth.
Discover Your Strengths and Weaknesses
You’ll want to evaluate yourself on an ongoing basis. Ask for feedback from your coworkers and peers. Listen to what they say about you and then honestly evaluate that feedback. Learn what you’re good at and what you need help with. Then take steps to improve upon those things.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
One of the best ways to grow is to get uncomfortable. Try something you aren’t sure if you’ll succeed at. Push yourself to take chances now and then. Some of the best learning I’ve ever had has been when I’ve been put in a situation that I didn’t really like.
When you’ve made a breakthrough, or done something you’re proud of, treat yourself to something good. Have a special dinner. Go see a movie. Buy yourself something nice. Life is about living, not working, so live it up once in awhile.
Network and Look to Your Peers
Being your own mentor doesn’t mean going at things all alone. It’s important to connect with people who share similar talents, skills and interests. Take the time to get involved in your professional community, to meet your peers and get to know them. Chances are you’ll learn a lot.
Be sure and ask lots of questions. One of the things I do is solicit “mini-mentorship” from my peers. I ask them about their lives, their work and their lessons learned. I’ve found that almost everyone has something good to share, and if you’re willing to listen you’ll learn something.
Become a Mentor Yourself
Some of the best lessons in life are those I’ve learned from someone I’m trying to help. Teaching can expose gaps in your own knowledge that you might have never thought you had. Take the time to help others, to share with them and answer their questions. You’ll be helping yourself in the process.
Take Some Time To Dream
Every once in awhile stop what you’re doing and think about where you want to be. Think about what you love to do, what you’ve got a passion for. Reflect on yourself and dream about what the future holds. I think sometimes we get so caught up in the grind that we lose site not only of the place we want to be, but the path we’re taking to get there.
Just Do It
I know, it’s cheesy, but it’s true. If you want to succeed at anything you first have to make the choice to do so. Sometimes heading out on a path with no guidance is very daunting, but you’ll never get to where you want to be if you don’t even take that first step.